Son of Sam Is Back – QNS.com

Son of Sam Is Back

By the time he was in the sixth grade, he began getting into trouble at school, committing acts of petty vandalism, breaking car windows and becoming a pyromaniac, setting and extinguishing small fires. He also started torturing and killing small animals, one of which was his mother’s pet parakeet. Oddly enough, by the time he turned 16 he became an auxiliary fireman and trained as an auxiliary policeman at the local 40th Precinct.
Obviously finding an institutional identity appealing, he enlisted in the Army saying he wanted to "die for a cause." The Vietnam War was going on at the time and he said he was "fanatically patriotic," but he was stationed in Korea and never saw any combat. He believed he had no future in the Army but he did pick up one skill he would use later in his life: the use of deadly weapons. When he returned from the Army in 1974 his pyromaniacal thoughts had returned. By his own accounting, between May, 1974 and his arrest in 1977, he set no less than 1,411 fires, leaving detailed records for all fires he set. The police found notebooks for them in which he would record them on grids that included the dates and times of the fires, the streets and the boroughs in which they occurred, the numbers of the local firehouses, and the fire department codes. Some of the fires were in empty lots, others in cars and some were major blazes that destroyed buildings.
On Christmas Eve 1975 he started to hear voices which he said were coming from the guard dogs he would take his rounds with on his midnight to eight job as a security guard at JFK Airport. He believed the voices were telling him to kill and he went to Co-op City with a knife tucked into his jacket. He attacked a woman from behind, only injuring her after she grappled with Berkowitz and escaped. "I wasn’t going to rob her, or touch her, or rape her. I just wanted to kill her," he later wrote of the attack.
By the time Berkowitz moved to Yonkers, the "voices" were becoming increasingly satanic. A neighbor, Sam Carr, became in Berkowitz’ mind "a high official of the Devil’s legion." He saw demonic presences all around him. A nearby house at 22 Wicker St. was the home of an evil man who ran a sort of hotel for the demons that tortured him. He began to believe that a dog owned by Sam Carr was his master and the evil forces sent their messages to kill through him. On July 29, 1976, 18-year-old Donna Lairria was shot in the neck with a .44 caliber gun in the Bronx. His killing spree had begun. In November 1976, Joanne Lomino, 18, was shot in the lower spine, paralyzed for life. On January 29, 1977, he shot 26-year-old Christine Freund in the temple and neck, killing her instantly. On March 8, 1977, he killed 21-year-old Virginia Voskerichian by shooting her in the mouth.
On the night of April 16, 1977, Valentina Suriani,18 and Alexander Esau, 20, were parked under an overpass at Station Square in Forest Hills Gardens. Berkowitz approached the car from the rear, peered directly into the passenger side window, took his .44 and at point blank range fired shots into their heads, killing them instantly. By this time, the police had begun putting a pattern together and the City became paralyzed with fear as cops warned young couples especially to stay home at night and avoid parked cars, because the killer appeared to target young women seated in parked cars with their male companions.
The faceless killer soon got a name. Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin was sent a chilling, rambling note full of satanic references and diagrams. The writer claimed responsibility for the killings and promised more. He said he liked to kill the young women of Queens because they were the prettiest. He said he was following orders from the devil and he signed the letter "Son of Sam." The News ran the letter on its front page and its taunting demonic prose put an even more frightening aura to the killings, which continued in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
A special "Son of Sam" command center was set up in Flushing’s 109 Pct. to deal with the case. At one point the police were receiving an average of four telephone calls a minute from people offering information on the case. Various sketches were put forward as to the killer’s possible appearance. Breslin would continue to receive letters and Berkowtiz would also leave notes at the scenes of his crimes. In addition to an extensive police manhunt, a wave of vigilantism took place with people warily eyeing the behavior of co-workers, neighbors, even relatives and friends who gave off telltale signs that they could just be the Son of Sam. In all, six people were killed and six were left wounded in his random shootings.
By August, Berkowitz was planning his most fiendish killing in which, armed with an arsenal of weapons, he would enter a popular young people’s nightclub on Northern Blvd. in Bayside and conduct a mass slaughter. But on the night of his final killing in the Bronx where he shot and killed 20-year-old Stacy Moskowitz and blinded for life her companion, 20-year-old Robert Violante, Berkowitz’ car received a ticket for parking next to a fire hydrant. A woman who saw him fleeing from the scene had remembered seeing a cop writing a ticket on his car earlier. She notified the police who traced his car to Yonkers where it was parked near his house. The two New York City cops found sitting on the front seat of his car in a brown paper bag a bulldog .44 caliber gun. A virtual army of cops ringed the area on Aug. 10 but when they found the bland, meek-looking postal worker he simply said "You got me."
Berkowitz was taken to the Queens Criminal Court in Kew Gardens in an armored car and in his first interrogation by Queens D.A. John Santucci and others, the nightmarish tales of talking satanic dogs and other demons was revealed to a shocked but relieved City.
Berkowitz was sentenced to six life sentences at State prison in Attica. The "Son of Sam" law was eventually introduced in the N.Y. Legislature by State Senator Emanuel Gold of Forest Hills which would limit the ability of convicted criminals to profit from accounts of their crimes.
Berkowitz, in prison today, claims to have had a religious conversion and he sends out Christian messages on the internet in which he atones for doing "satan’s dirty work" and says "The police and news media used to call me ‘The Son of Sam’ but God has given me a new name, ‘The Son of Hope,’ because now my life is about hope."
Meanwhile former D. A. Santucci to this day says he believes Berkowitz did not act alone but was part of a larger cult. Spike Lee’s upcoming film will relive the terrible summer of 1977 — a project that some of the relatives of Son of Sam’s victims would like to stop. When Lee was filming scenes recently near the site where his first victim was killed, the father of the girl organized a protest outside the site saying "I can’t believe that anyone would make a movie about Son of Sam. He killed my daughter. Only a heartless person would come into this area and shoot a movie about him here." Nevertheless, the filming of the movie goes forward, bringing back memories of a time 21 years ago when one meek-looking madman held the entire City as a hostage of hate.

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